Here are some tips for time management:
- Develop a time line for the project. It can be very helpful to take the time to write out a time line for the project, including tentative deadlines for yourself for various stages of the process. The more people there are involved in the process, the more important a time line becomes.
- Front load the time line. Get as much accomplished as you possibly can during the first week or two of the time line. That's the time to gather as much data as possible. Sketch out the big ideas. Do any research you need to do. Get a solid outline constructed. This pre-writing period is one of the most important, so don't skimp on it.
- Make a list of data and information you'll need from others to complete the project. Share the list with those who can help you. It doesn't have to be a complete list, and things will definitely pop up during the process, but remember that others can't read your mind. If you need something from them, put it in writing.
- Get the budget sketched out early and finalize it as soon as possible. It is much easier and quicker to write a complete draft of the narrative when the budget has been finalized. It also prevents having to go back into the narrative to adjust activities that you thought you were going to be able to fund, but that you couldn't fit into the budget.
- If you get stuck on the narrative, take a break and work on something else. The budget narrative, forms, or appendices are good choices.
- Develop a prepared guide for writing good letters of support (including some samples) in advance that you can give to project partners at the beginning of the process. Get people started thinking about letters at the first planning meeting. As soon as your design components are clear to you, put a summary in writing and distribute it to your partners so they can get effective letters of support started. Feel free to refer folks to our blog post on Writing Good Letters of Support or our free webinar on Writing Good Letters of Support for Grants.
- Assign someone the responsibility of collecting letters of support and signatures. If at all possible, this should not be you. Not only do you need to focus on writing, but the process of collecting letters is extremely time consuming. If it has to be you, dedicate an hour a day, from day 1, to the task so it doesn't get put off until the very end.
- Get the first draft done as soon as possible. Remember it's a draft, so it doesn't have to be complete. It doesn't have to have all of the data inserted. The sooner you get the first draft done, the more confident you will feel, and the easier it will be to see what information and data you are really missing, if any.
- Schedule your time line so you are completely finished with the narrative at least three days before the deadline. If you end up with less time at the end, your proofreading process will be rushed and the likelihood of errors making it through to the final draft goes up dramatically.
- Remember that the back end of the process always takes longer than you expect. I'm talking about proofreading, reviewing the draft to ensure that the narrative matches the letters of support, finalizing the budget and budget narrative (including double- and triple-checking your numbers), and assembling the appendices. Plan for this. Do as much of it in the pre-writing phase as possible.
- Get plenty of rest and eat right. While this may not seem like a time management tip, it really is. Research has demonstrated that people are less effective when they are tired. Working late into the evening will not be as productive as the morning hours when you are well rested. All grant writers have experienced late nights, and sometimes they can't be avoided, but you should avoid them when you can (unless, of course, you are one of those folks who works best at night). From the 10th hour of work onward, your effectiveness declines rapidly.
- Once you have developed a process that works well for you, stick to it. I'm not talking about superstition and sticking to a process because you think it makes you lucky, but developing a set of processes and procedures that are smooth and effective. If you write many grants each year, having a standardized process will allow you to focus less on the process and more on the writing - and that will pay off for you.
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